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Passover 5779: A Memorable Night

04/24/2019 02:25:55 PM


Among the commentary and news items that circulate leading up to each major Jewish holiday, one piece stood out. [Available here: ] Dr. Arielle Levites is a scholar of Jewish education, and she and her colleague Dr. Liat Sayfan recently completed a soon to be published study about today's Jewish teenagers. They surveyed more than 17,000 American Jewish teens, the largest...Read more...

Vayikra/Shabbat Zachor 5779: Fighting Amalek Today

03/17/2019 05:37:37 PM


“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egyptâ€"how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when the LORD your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not...Read more...

P'kudei 5779: Journeys and Destinations

03/14/2019 02:11:18 PM


In my life prior to KTI, I spend many years as a student, first college and then rabbinical school. Part of that lifestyle meant that I was constantly moving. In fact, every nine months or so, or sometimes even more frequently, would I pack up all of my belongings and go somewhere else, including moving to Israel and back twice. There were times in rabbinical school when for various personal and professional reasons I would be away from home...Read more...

Va-yakhel 5779: Giving to Receive and Giving to Give

03/05/2019 07:49:46 PM


As I turned on my car radio on Thursday morningâ€"on my way to Starbucks for my office hour, please come by any Thursday from 8-9!â€"I discovered that it is yet again that time of year. Not some religious or civil holiday, not some milestone in our ever-expanding election cycle. No, it is one of the annual NPR pledge drives! My usual listening was interrupted by impassionate pleas for financial support of the nonprofit radio station. NPR...Read more...

Yitro 5779: The Ocean and the Cave

01/30/2019 09:33:05 PM


Two years ago, Daniel and I had the opportunity to visit Channel Islands National Park. The islands are about an hour's boat ride off the coast of Southern California. They draw in visitors with opportunities to be deep in relatively unspoiled wilderness in just a day trip from the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. Around the perimeter of the islands are many sea caves, rock formations carved out by the rhythms of the waves. One popular...Read more...

Va-y'hi 2018: Figure and Background

12/26/2018 06:59:56 PM


What do you see in this image? A vase, or two faces looking at each other? This famous optical illusion was developed by the Danish-Jewish psychologist Edgar Rubin, as part of his work on what he called the figure-ground distinction. Normally, when we look at something, our brains automatically differentiate what is the main figure and what is in the background. So, for example, when we read printed words on a page, our brains focus on the words...Read more...

Va-yishlah 5779: Thanksgiving

11/21/2018 02:53:05 PM


In this week's Torah reading, Va-yishlah, we learn of Jacob's confrontation with his brother Esau after 20 years away. In preparation for this confrontation, Jacob prays, acknowledging that "I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps" (Genesis 32:11). In this pivotal and uncertain moment, Jacob reflects back on where he was...Read more...

Va-yetzei 5779: Stairway to Heaven

11/14/2018 10:42:23 PM


When we meet our ancestor Jacob at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Va-yetzei, he is a man on the run. Having finagled the status of firstborn from his brother and father, Jacob flees for his life and is en route to Haran, his mother's birthplace. One night on this journey, Jacob has his famous dream of the angelic beings going up and down a stairway to heaven. God promises Jacob that he will inherit the covenant of his father and...Read more...

KTI Connections: Tol'dot 5779

11/07/2018 04:13:51 PM


Our Torah reading this week, Tol'dot, focuses on the life of Isaac: the birth of his children, his adventures in the land of Israel, and the struggle between his sons for his blessings. What is striking about Isaac's life is how similar it was to his father Abraham's: both men travel south during a famine, both pass off their wives as their sisters, both have conflicts with their neighbors. Both have two main children, with a protracted...Read more...

Hayyei Sarah 5779: Message to Young People

11/06/2018 08:06:27 PM


I typically do not give a sermon at a Bar Mitzvah, but given the events of the previous week, I want to share a few brief words. In particular I want to address the young people who are with us today. In our Torah reading this week, we read about the death of Abraham. “Abraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented; and he was gathered to his kin” (Gen. 25:8). But then, we read a curious but extremely important...Read more...
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